During the late 1800s Arcadia was the county seat of what would become many counties. In 1921 legislation enacted called for Arcadia to remain the county seat of Desoto County and resulted in the creation of present day counties of Charlotte, Hardee, Glades and Highlands. Prior to this break up Arcadia's population had grown considerably with over 1,000 permanent residents and boasted 3,000 square miles (7,800 km2) for ranching. During Thanksgiving Day in 1905 the town was destroyed by a large-scale fire that originated from a mid-town livery stable. Furthermore the fire was exacerbated because the town did not have a working water system or fire department. The estimated monetary damage was $250,000 but there was no loss of life. Much of the business district was not spared. It would be years before the town recovered.
Arcadia was featured in an episode of the "Travel Channel" show "Cash & Treasures Treasure Hunter: Kirsten Gum", the episode aired in 2006. The episode included locals helping Kirsten dig for fossil skark teeth in the "Peace River".